Fast & Furious: Michelle Rodriguez got rewrites on 1st film to avoid sexism

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Michelle Rodriguez, The Fast and the Furious, Fast and Furious, sexism, Letty

Michelle Rodriguez has proven over her career that she has no time for negative stereotypes. She has always been a performer that speaks her mind, even early in her career after breaking out in 2000's Girlfight. The Fast and the Furious, released only a year later, was Rodriguez's first big studio film but that didn't stop her from insisting on rewrites to make her character more realistic and not a "trophy girlfriend."

Rodriguez plays Letty in the Fast franchise, the girlfriend of Vin Diesel's Dominic Torretto. Rodriguez was not content with just being Torretto's arm piece and in a new oral history published by "Entertainment Weekly", her co-star Jordana Brewster, who plays Mia in the franchise, remembered how Rodriguez pushed for changes with the character.

"When Michelle Rodrguez read her role, she was like, 'No, I'm not playing that.' And then she changed it completely. It went from a trophy girlfriend to this really layered character."

Rodriguez follows up Brewster's statement by expanding on the notion that she didn't want to be "just the girlfriend." Rodriguez believed that in the world they were creating it wasn't realistic for the girlfriend not to be Dom's equal:

"It was a reality check for them to realize that the streets don’t work like that. You don’t just get with a guy because he’s hot. There’s a hierarchy there. Can that hot guy get beat up by who you’re dating? If he can, then you don’t date him, because why would you want to lose the hierarchy? In order to keep it real, I had to school them: ‘I know you guys like Hollywood and all that, but if you want it to be realistic, this is how it really works, and I’m not going to be a slut in front of millions of people, so you’re going to lose me if you don’t change this.’ And they figured it out."

If you're thinking that the producers were annoyed with the changes she insisted upon, you'd be wrong. Producer Neal H. Moritz admits that all of the characters in The Fast and the Furious were written by male screenwriters and he welcomed Rodriguez's perspective on her character. Moritz said, "It was nice to have that female perspective and really try to dive deep. We wanted everybody to be empowered, whether you were white, Black, Hispanic, male, female, didn't matter to us."

Rodriguez is also responsible for getting one of Letty's best moments into a film. When things start going sideways at Race Wars in the film, another character is sneaking up on Dom getting ready to attack him before Letty swiftly knocks him out. Rodriguez says that she fought to have a moment where Letty fights in the film and that was the end result:

"I remember fighting to get a moment where Letty get into a fight herself because I felt like you don't sit around and let your boys throw down without getting your hands dirty. If you don't, then are you just there to model? That doesn't work where I come from."

Rodriguez didn't return to the Fast franchise until the fourth installment, Fast & Furious. This was the entry that brought back the signature cast from the first film but fans were a bit letdown when Letty met an early demise. Rodriguez sat out for Fast Five but it was revealed during an end credits moment that Letty was very much alive. Rodriguez fully returned in Fast & Furious 6 but her character was suffering from amnesia and was working for the film's villain, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). By the end of the next film, Furious 7, Letty gets all of her memories back and it's business as usual in The Fate of the Furious.

Things being business as usual is something that isn't on Rodriguez's agenda. The actress made headlines in June of 2017 when she took to social media to say she would leave the franchise if they did not start "showing some love" to the female characters. The powers that be actually heard Rodriguez and according to her, and Jordana Brewster, Fast & Furious 9 allows the women to take center stage and the experience was a satisfying one for all of the women in the film. I guess the great thing about all of this is that Rodriguez made her grievances known now, as a member of a multi-billionaire franchise, and she did it back in the day when the world really had no idea who she was just yet. She has always been real and upfront. Definitely something I personally respect about her.

Source: Entertainment Weekly

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